In Riley Hart’s Introduction, the author talks about the desire to create something different with this series. Instead of serial stories linked together, Hart wanted a narrative playground. One where standalone stories could have roots and flourish amidst a familiar foundation, a wide universe.
So Hart started creating Briar County, North Carolina. With its small towns like Harmony and Everett, and it’s wonderful town stores, restaurants, and community gathering places and events like the Covington Farm Goatalapoloozas Briar County quickly becomes a group of places that feels like home.
Populated by people we invest in and connect to. They flow in and out and around these stories just as you would see people in your own community.
What a rich tapestry Hart has created for this series and us.
Sundae’s Best is such a remarkable story. It starts from a place of grief, pain, loss, and an emptiness, and growing need for two men connected by death of two beloved people. One is looking for connection and a home. The other? He’s not sure. But he’s feeling empty even though he’s surrounded by community and family who love him.
Sundae’s Best, the name of Deacon’s ice cream store, is a gentle, heartwarming, incredibly well written and moving love story. Its so sweet and low key, realistic, fumbling even, as Grady and Deke find their way to friendship through their mutual love, grief over their loss of Nathan and Birdy. Then it’s so sweet as it gradually turns into something more, deeper, turning into love.
We watch as Deke has to wrestle with his new feelings ( never confused that he does love Grady but over all those terms) and everyone trying to define him when he hasn’t figured out things other that he needs Grady. That’s so understandable and believable too.
All the small town dynamics at place, the positive and negative, are on display.
There’s also an amazing aspect of this book that deals with Grady’s past and his family’s reaction to his sexuality. Again, Hart’s characters are so well defined and layered that so you feel their emotions and understand their actions.
There isn’t one part of this book that doesn’t hold up to intense scrutiny. It’s just that good.
My complaint? I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay there…. Eating Sticky Bourbon ice cream,playing with the goats… and wanting to know what happens next in their lives.
In short. Briar County has me hooked. It has made a friend. Made me want to stay.
I think you’ll feel the same. Start here. Go for the first. Doesn’t matter. Just head on over and make your acquaintance. I’m highly recommending you do!
Briar County series:
Firefly Lane #1
Sundae’s Best #2
Grady Dalton is in a rut. He’s thirty-eight, without a boyfriend, and has yet to find the place that feels like home. The closest he ever got was his best friend, Nathan. But it’s been seven years since he passed, and life isn’t getting easier. That’s how he ends up in Briar County, hoping to grow roots in the place Nathan had loved.
Deacon Sharpe spends his days serving homemade ice cream at Sundae’s Best and his nights alone, pretending he’s getting by after his wife’s death better than he is. His world is rocked when a man shows up who claims to have been his brother-in-law’s best friend and seems to miss Nathan as much as Deacon misses Patty.
Their losses connect them, but soon, the weight of their loneliness eases with laughter, making ice cream, and Grady reminding Deacon of what it feels like to be held again. Deacon tells himself it’s platonic. How can it be more when he’s forty and has never been with a man, never even been attracted to one? But then, he’d never felt those things about anyone other than Patty either. And when Grady touches him…kisses him…nothing else matters, and the rest of the world melts away.
Together they can deal with family drama, small-town gossip, and Deacon’s newly discovered feelings. But as it often does, life has one more curveball to throw their way…
Sundae’s Best is a small-town, bi/demisexual awakening romance, with characters who like to be held, swoony moments, a dog named Moose, and lots of ice cream. Sundae’s Best can be read as a standalone.